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The 1964 nuclear bomb exploded in South Mississippi – and its effects

In 1964 a nuclear bomb was detonated in South Mississippi By Jed Lipinski, | The Times-Picayune  The White House announced Tuesday (May 10) that President Barack Obama later this month will visit Hiroshima, Japan, site of the world’s first atomic bombing. It’s the most familiar nuclear explosion in history, but it’s just one of more than 2,000 such explosions — most of them tests — since 1945.

 It happened 2,600 feet underground in 1964, when a 5.3-kiloton bomb, one fourth the size of the bomb used on Hiroshima, was detonated deep inside the Tatum Salt Dome in Mississippi. The Tatum Salt Dome explosion was part of a nuclear test to determine whether the U.S. “had the ability to measure Soviet nuclear tests underground in caves,” reporter Mark Schleifstein wrote in The Times-Picayune in 1990.

“The Defense Department and the Atomic Energy Commission — precursor of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy — picked as their test site the Tatum Salt Dome southwest of Hattiesburg,” Schleifstein wrote. “It was huge, about a mile across, and relatively remote. Only about 250 families lived within five miles of ground zero.”

Three more blasts — one nuclear, two non-nuclear — followed over the next four years before researchers decided to abandon the site. Officials would later conduct a a massive clean-up effort, dumping 1.3 million gallons of contaminated water and 10,700 cubic yards of contaminated soil into the cavity.

Workers who participated in the clean-up said they were exposed to high levels of radiation on the job. Bill Teck, the chief of security at the site until 1971, was later diagnosed with skin cancer, which a Veterans Administration pathologist attributed to nuclear radiation.

Today, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality conducts annual tests of the surface water at the Tatum Dome to monitor slowly dropping levels of tritium, a mildly radioactive type of hydrogen that can seep into water supplies near nuclear power plants.

May 11, 2016 - Posted by | environment, USA


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